Ashes analysis: Just how much will England miss Flintoff?

July 20, 2009

A stunning spell by Andrew Flintoff saw Australia’s last five wickets tumble for just 93 runs as the tourists came under an intense barrage of brutal deliveries from England’s retiring talisman, who secured his side their first test victory over Australia at Lord’s since 1934 by 115 runs.

If anybody ever questioned what England would be missing once Flintoff retires at the end of this series, they got their answer in spades as Lancashire’s finest bowled unchanged for nine overs from the Pavilion End, returning figures of 3 for 33, and completing his first five-wicket haul in an innings for four years.

There was heightened tension at the start of play as Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke resumed their partnership, with Australia 313 for five overnight and threatening to overhaul a world record run chase and steal a 1-0 lead in the series. But Flintoff had other ideas.

Haddin was the first to go, failing to add to his overnight score of 80 as he could only edge a vicious lifting delivery from Flintoff to Collingwood at second slip, in the England man’s first over.

The wicket tangibly eased England’s and their supporters’ anxieties, leading to a sense that Australia were finally there for the taking.

Realising England were going for the jugular, and with only the bowlers left to bat with, Clarke bravely went on the offensive, repelling England’s vulture like fielders with some attacking stroke play.

But Australia’s only centurion in the match ended up perishing for 136 going for one positive shot too many, missing a Graeme Swann off-break, which rocked back the Aussie’s off stump.

With England’s tormentors from Sunday now back in the pavilion, Flintoff and captain Andrew Straus swooped in for the kill.

First Nathan Hauritz, then Peter Siddle were blown away as Flintoff ripped past their defences, clean bowling both the Australian tail-enders, leaving just Mitchell Johnson and number 11 Ben Hilfenhaus to carry on Australia’s fight.

Despite some heavy blows, Johnson lost his wicket going for one big shot too many like Clarke and was clean bowled as Swann, spurred on by a vociferous Lord’s crowd, wrapped up the match, claiming 4 for 87 in the second innings, and completing his renaissance after a disappointing first test in Cardiff.

Jubilation and adulation ensued. And it was well deserved — 75 years is a long time to wait for a victory over your oldest enemy at your home of cricket.

The roadshow moves on to Edgbaston on July 20 for the next instalment in a series which is already looking as if it will be as thrilling as the 2005 epic.

England do have questions that will need answering. Will Andrew Flintoff be fit to take the field? Can Kevin Pietersen recover from his achilles injury?

But for Ricky Ponting there will be even more issues that he will need to address. What does he do with a completely misfiring bowling unit? Will Brett Lee be fit enough to return? And how can he galvanise a side which had victory snatched away from them in Cardiff, then were completely outplayed at Lord’s?

PHOTO:England’s Andrew Flintoff waves before leaving the field after England defeated Australia in the second Ashes test cricket match at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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